When it comes to the future storylines involving T’Challa, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler is keen to explore what it means to be king. While much of the discussion surrounding Black Panther‘s uniqueness has rightfully focused on what it means for representation, it’s clear that the film will be innovative even in its plot. Not only will the movie take the action outside of the US and Europe, but T’Challa is not a typical superhero. Instead, he’s the anointed ruler and sacred protector of an entire kingdom.
It’s that focus that means T’Challa isn’t a vigilante fighting crime but rather an almost holy figure watching over his people while also fending of usurpers. As much as Black Panther explores what it means to be African, the upcoming Marvel movie will also put a welcome twist on the standard comic book narrative. In fact, that distinct tone is what has long made the Black Panther comics themselves in a league of their own—and the future of the franchise will continue to emulate the source material in that regard.
We spoke with Ryan Coogler about the future of Black Panther the series and the character following his first solo outing and this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War. For the director, the key to exploring T’Challa further lies in the differences between the MCU and the comics.
“Without getting into specifics, what I’ll say is something that I kind of, you know, what I struggled with at first is the difference between T’Challa in the comic books versus T’Challa in the MCU. And I always think that the differences lie in how old he was when he lost his father.”
On the page, T’Challa was quite young when his father was killed by Ulysses Klaue. That saw T’Challa forced to step up and win his right to the throne and govern as he grew. In fact, it’s that story which a new Black Panther comic tells, revealing more about T’Challa’s secret origin. When it comes to the MCU. however, things have gone a different way.
“You know, in the comic books he’s very young when [his father] T’Chaka is killed. In the MCU, he’s a man, you know? And those are two different things. So, you know, in the [books] he was kind of a guy who was a child king, you know? He got his throne when he was very young. So when you meet him you know you dealing with a guy who’s thirty-four years old who’s been king for a long time. So he has a different type of poise and confidence in his position, you know? Whereas, in our film that character is just settling in. So I’d be really interested to see, you know, what kind of king he is with experience and how that affects his performance in the stories.”
Much of T’Challa’s backstory has been changed in the MCU. For one, he seems to already be the Black Panther even before he becomes king. In the comics, the two are one and the same. T’Chaka also wasn’t killed by Klaue and T’Challa is a great deal older than on the page (Chadwick Boseman is in his mid-40s). It’s because of these details that Coogler is right in stating the development of T’Challa as a ruler will be quite different on the screen.
The comics, however, will likely still serve as inspiration for the Black Panther franchise. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current run on Black Panther has seen the Dora Milaje become their own faction and Wakanda shift towards democracy. We’ve heard Coates’ comics will influence Black Panther, so something along these lines could follow the uprising caused by Killmonger. On top of that, we could see Shuri become Queen of Wakanda like in the comics, where she also serves as the Black Panther when T’Challa heads to New York (to replace Daredevil). Whatever happens, the MCU will put its own spin on things, but Coogler seems to have a handle on what makes a Black Panther story work.
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